Kesha, Amy Winehouse & the Common Denominator of Abuse
by Satdeep Grewal
On my usual awkward and boring commute home, I avoid my fellow commuters’ eyelines by opening up Facebook to give my news feed a cursory glance. One of the first things to hit me yesterday was a news piece on how Sony may now be looking to terminate their contract with Dr Luke – not because he allegedly drugged and sexually abused international singer and songwriter Kesha, but because he is bringing them bad press.
I am struck, not by anger at the stark misalignment of commercial versus human interests, but by my own weariness of the predictability in this development: why am I not surprised?
It doesn’t shock me that after nearly a year of campaigning by women’s rights activists and protests outside the international Sony offices, it’s brand image that makes Sony finally sit up and take notice. Having followed the to-and-fro’s of the Kesha vs Sony vs Dr Luke court case circus closely over the past year, like many others I was outraged by the recent court decision to keep Kesha tied to her alleged abuser in order to protect the monetary interests of a multi-billion dollar entity. I felt a small glimmer of hope that through the celebrity profile of the people involved and those who have come out in support of Kesha – from Lady Gaga to Adele to Taylor Swift – finally something unprecedented was happening: something that could pave the way for long overdue changes to the way our global music industries work.
Thinking over Kesha’s predicament, I couldn’t help but think of the film ‘Amy’, a delicate and candid portrayal of Amy Winehouse’s rise to fame and the tragic lead up to her death.
The cleverly pieced together archival footage highlights the truly raw and pure genius possessed by Winehouse, set against the cruel treatment she endured from the press and media. But it was not the media harassment that struck me in Winehouse’s story, but an underlying commonality with Kesha’s allegations. Winehouse’s father, her husband, her manager, her music executives all crowded around her obvious vulnerability, and hoisted and pushed her to perform and perform until she made the most tragic of confessions: that she would rather have given back her talent than live this way. Similarly, Kesha, a young talented woman is being exploited by a group of privileged men who are more interested in the dollar signs hanging above her head than the damage they are doing to the person in front of them.
All of this I observe with a weary pessimism; is there an end in sight? How many more cases of abuse, lawsuits, confessions, Amy’s and Kesha’s will it take before we call our industries to account and force them to act and undo the “norm” of systematic abuse? I don’t have an answer, but there’s one thing we can all do to make those money obsessed execs take notice: #boycottsony.
Satdeep is Chair and Treasurer of Making Herstory, an Impact Evaluation Analyst at Citizens Advice UK and a freelance artist and filmmaker.